GREENFIELD — When Jason Horning was just a teenager at Greenfield-Central High School back in the mid-1990s, he knew even then he wanted to be a fireman and serve the community.
Some 28 years later, he is now the fire chief of the Greenfield Fire Territory after being officially sworn-in Tuesday morning during a special ceremony at City Hall.
Mayor Chuck Fewell named Horning, the longtime deputy chief, as his choice to replace Brian Lott, who stepped down from the position in late 2022.
“I’m extremely excited for this opportunity,” Horning said. “I grew up here in Greenfield and am truly looking forward to continuing to serve my community.”
Fewell had selected Horning to be the interim fire chief while trying to determine if he wanted to create a search committee for a new chief, select Horning, or just keep the interim Horning in charge during the final 11 months of his term as mayor and let the new mayor pick the new chief.
In the end, Fewell went ahead and named Horning as the new chief, saying Horning really was the right person for the job. He’s been the deputy chief since 2008.
“I could have gone outside the department, promoted from within, or set up a search committee again all taking time away from what we need, which is leadership,” Fewell said. “So, I decided with Jason having so much experience, he was the right person for the job.”
Horning, 46, became a volunteer for the GFT when he was a senior in high school in 1995. He even earned his certification as an EMT/Firefighter before he graduated high school. Horning then worked his way through the ranks via classes and special training after being hired full time when he was 21 years old.
After all the years working for GFT, getting the chance to lead the firefighters is something Horning said he’s looking forward to.
“I love my guys that we have, I really do,” Horning said. “I feel blessed that I’m the one the mayor had confidence in to be the one to lead them.”
Fewell had interviewed Horning, who was a finalist for the position when Lott was hired a few years ago, and the two had a conversation about the leadership position recently. Fewell noted he’s been impressed with Horning for years after seeing his positive attitude and work ethic.
“This time, with 11 months left, in looking at our group of firefighters who are structured by officers with rules and regulations, I knew they needed a leader at the top who they know can do the job and I think Jason since December and throughout his career has proved that,” Fewell said.
Horning feels like the emergency service the city offers is running well considering the resources they have. However, he knows the community is in need of more firefighters and a new station, both things he’ll work on achieving as the head administrator.
“The biggest thing for me is to manage the growth of the city and making sure our resources are staying up with the growth to meet those demands of the citizens,” Horning said.
There was a time in Horning’s life when he thought about heading to college to become an architect, but he said the thought never gave him as much satisfaction as being in the fire service and helping people.
“It’s kind of a cliche, but I really never found anything I like more than serving the public,” Horning said.
Promoting that motto became his goal when he was named as deputy chief of operations 15 years ago, and it’s still his mantra that all firefighters hired understand the department serves the community.
“I tell our firefighters our customers are the citizens and they don’t have a choice when they call 911 as to which fire department is going to show up,” Horning said. “I want us getting to runs in a timely fashion and giving 110% to do everything we can to make their day better and a lot of time it’s doing the little things that may not be in our job description.”
During his service as a firefighter, Horning also served 12 years on the city council and learned a great deal about the GFT budget, funding and city government.
“That was a great experience,” Horning said.
He feels the time spent on the council will help him with his new administrative duties of managing the budget, handling human resource needs and working with other townships.
Horning knows a new mayor when elected will have the power to come in and make changes in the leadership of the fire territory if the person sees fit. However, Horning plans to work as hard as he can to make sure he gives the new mayor reason to keep him.
“We’re going to make sure we provide this community a great service by keeping up with the demands,” Horning said. “I want to continue to progress the department and keep it moving in a positive direction.”
The fire service has been good to Horning, he said. He met his wife when she too was in the department. She’s since retired and is running the family’s recently opened business, Jersey Mike’s Subs. Horning, his wife, Jama Horning; his brother, Eric Horning; and Eric’s wife, Heather Horning are behind the venture. The restaurant is located in a 1,600 square feet at 1785 Melody Lane in Melody Plaza next to Buffalo Wild Wings.